Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007

Justice and Law Officers – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:15 pm on 1st July 2010.

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The Solicitor General for Scotland (Frank Mulholland):

There have been no prosecutions in Scotland under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007. One charge under the 2007 act has been reported to the procurator fiscal but it was not appropriate, on the evidence available, to indict the company on such a charge. The company was indicted and convicted of charges under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

The health and safety division of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service is involved in directing a number of joint investigations by the police and other enforcing authorities that may result, in due course, in a prosecution under the 2007 act.

Photo of John Park John Park Labour

I welcome the figures that were released by the Health and Safety Executive yesterday that show that there has been a decline in the number of workplace deaths in Scotland over the past year, although the figures obviously reflect declining figures for employment just now and for issues such as industrial disease. I am sure that Mr Mulholland agrees that one workplace death is far too many and that we must have effective deterrents in place to improve the figures greatly as we go forward.

The general secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress, Grahame Smith, raised concerns yesterday about the lack of employer involvement with trade unions to tackle the issue jointly, when he said:

"The time has come for employers to work with trade unions to ensure that more workers are protected in the workplace".

I would appreciate it if Mr Mulholland could respond to those concerns, outline what measures he believes the Scottish Government could take and indicate whether he believes that the existing legislative framework is sufficient.

The Solicitor General for Scotland:

My view is that the existing legislation or legislative framework is sufficient and allows prosecutors and, indeed, investigators and regulators to police the workplace so that if there is a tragedy—I agree that one death is one too many—then appropriate action can be taken.

The health and safety division of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service has been in existence for a year. During that period there has been a real development of expertise in health and safety investigations and prosecutions. Feedback from people, including members of the STUC, has been positive about the work done by the health and safety division. In the past year, there have been 20 successful prosecutions and the division has dealt with a number of complex fatal accident inquiries, in relation to, for example: Dundee leisure, and the death of a child at a leisure centre; Clyde Valley Housing Association, where a security guard died as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning; and E Nicholson and Sons (Metals) Ltd, where a scaffolder died during unsafe dismantling of scaffolding. Those cases and others are examples of action being taken by prosecutors to deal with health and safety breaches. I can assure the member that the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service takes such matters very seriously and will continue to do so.